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Dotter of Her Father's Eyes Album – 2 Feb 2012
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"Dotter of Her Father's Eyes is doubly enjoyable for writer Mary Talbot's masterful interweaving of two father-daughter relationships and cartoonist Bryan Talbot's equally brilliant drawings, which transported me back-and-forth between gritty postwar Britain and the swinging Paris of the 20s and 30s. This is one of the best collaborative efforts I've seen in the comics medium." (Joe Sacco)
"A fascinating and original book, which will have wide appeal - not just to fathers and daughters!" (Jennifer Coates)
"[Am]bitious, entertaining and perceptive...blends a first-time script from Mary Talbot with stunning drawings and design from her husband, Bryan... It's a small triumph." (Tim Martin Daily Telegraph)
"Elegantly drawn and fluidly told, like Alison Bechdel's graphic memoir, Fun Home, this is a moving take on fathers, daughters and literature." (Tom Gatti The Times)
"Lucia Joyce's tragic descent from creativity into fragmentation is brilliantly brought home by the writing and art of the Talbot team." (Lucille Redmond Irish Times)
An extraordinary new graphic memoir about James Joyce, fathers and daughters.See all Product description
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It is partly her own childhood memories, dominated by her Joycean scholar father, and part biography of Joyce’s own daughter Lucia.
This is an informative and uneasy balance and if you skipped over the intricately chronological Lucia parts you might find it less of a dry read. Talbot’s own childhood is closer to our own, depending on your age dear reader, and we find more empathy with her trials and tribulations.
Bryan does a superb job on art duties as always clearly delineating the two stories using tone and texture. There are no straight panels here as every page has an organic warmth that presses frames together in an almost memory soup. For a non-fiction story there is a great deal of creativity and imagination in the expression of ideas and emotions.
The education of the Lucia story juxtaposed with the empathic memories of Mary is odd and a little understated in places but much more brave and interesting than either story alone.
His writing is at least as accomplished as his art. "The Tale of One Bad Rat" is one of the very few comics that has actually made me cry, and deserved every plaudit and award it picked up. He also demonstrated a scholarly side in "Alice in Sunderland".
"Dotter of Her Father's Eyes" is something different though as it is a collaboration with his wife Mary, a published author and scholar in her own right. Bryan's art is right up to standard, and Mary's script is a worthy match. The book is a labour of love that describes Mary's upbringing in austere post-war Britain, while drawing parallels with that of Lucia, daughter of James Joyce during the 1920s, mostly in Paris. There is also a framing narrative concerning the present-day Mary and Bryan. Each of these narratives is depicted in its own distinct graphic style.
Both the main story-lines are interesting in their own right, describing troubled relationships between father and daughter, with very different outcomes. Mary's is eventually much happier, covering her courtship with a funny, naive young Bryan, the birth of their children, and featuring friends including one Chester (who may be connected to the protagonist of the same name in Bryan's early Underground comix!).
Lucia's life unfortunately is much more tragic: a talent and passion for dance thwarted by the demands of her unsympathetic parents, resulting in breakdowns and institutionalisation. Neither James Joyce (genius but not much of a parent) nor Mary's stern father, a frustrated intellectual and Joycean scholar -- hence the connection between the narratives -- come out of this very sympathetically.
Both stories are set against fascinating historical backgrounds, skilfully realised in both the writing and illustration: the intellectual smart set in 1920s Paris and the austerity of post-War northern Britain.
I would recommend this to anyone who has enjoyed Bryan Talbot's many excellent comics: this is up with the best, and won the Costa Biography award in 2012. Beyond that though, it also may be one of those Holy Grails: the comic you can introduce to intelligent non-readers that will convince them that reading these things is genuinely a worthwhile pursuit, and not "kids' stuff" to be hidden from one's intellectual acquaintances.
Though the story is sad, there is humour in the drawings which capture the irony of the harsh patriarchal upbringing and the struggle to survive of both Mary and Lucie Joyce.
Though the book doesn't take long to read, you want to read it again and again to see the many levels it functions on.